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    7 Tips on How to Discuss a Sibling’s Drug Addiction with Your Other Children

    Substance use within a family is a devastating, gut-wrenching problem. It can affect even the strongest family 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    How do responsible parents communicate with their other children about the addiction that has affected their sibling? Confusion, uncertainty and insecurity abound for children who don’t understand why their brother or sister is sleeping all day, acting differently and no longer participating with the family.

    I believe that being honest and open with your children about their sibling’s substance use issues is respectful and fair. Don’t forget that children are very intuitive; if they see their parents speaking in hushed tones when it comes to their sibling or witness an emotional or physical change, they will realize something is up.

    1. Pick an easy, comfortable time to chat with your kids. A picnic in the park or a meal at their favorite restaurant may be a good backdrop.

    2. Though the situation may be complex, parents should tell the truth in a way that children are able to understand. This way, they will be able to prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. Routine feels safe for many kids; if changes do occur, they will need your help to adjust.

    3. Ask the kids if they are worried about what’s going on within the family. If they say no, leave it. If they are confused, scared or upset about anything that they see or hear, simply say that you are there for them anytime.

    4. If there have been volatile arguments within the family, let the children know that they have nothing to do with the fighting, and that you are sorry that they had to witness these outbreaks.

    5. The children should be told that regardless of what’s happening with their sibling, that their sibling loves them and, again, that they are not responsible.

    6. If younger children are aware that there is something wrong with their sibling, it is open, honest and healthy to tell them that they are sick at the moment, and that Mom and Dad are doing everything they can to help them get well.

    7. If your other children are old enough, encourage them to seek support in an age-appropriate family support group.

    Whether your child is in grade school or college, the discussion about their sibling’s substance use issues is difficult, but it is the responsible parent that realizes the importance of an honest, open communication with all family members.